Around the periphery of the room were the various operational stations with the huge viewscreen to the fore. In the centre were the command chairs for the Captain, First Officer and appropriate advisor of the time, and in front of that the stations for navigation and helm.
We were preparing to leave spacedock, so it was efficiently busy. Comms was relaying the verbal confirmation of clearance for departure and helm control its digital agreement. Ahead, I could see the grim, grey shipyard on the viewscreen, with all its debris and chaos, and just beyond its talons, the openness of space: quiet, black and sprinkled with tiny white stars. And then we were moving!
Stupidly, I had expected to hear the roar of engines, feel the thrum of ... well, not turbines. She doesn't have turbines, but you get my drift. She slid silently and gracefully away from the pylons, slipped out of spacedock's grip and suddenly we were out into the void of open space. It was absolutely beautiful and I found myself having to fight back yet more tears of emotion.
"Yes, it is pretty overwhelming the first time, isn't it?"
I turned. It was the Captain speaking to me. I smiled weakly.
"Come, take a seat for a moment. Your first time on a bridge?"
I nodded dumbly as I came and sat in the command seat beside her—I was sitting in a Command Seat! I felt like a kid on a school trip being allowed into the cockpit of a shuttle.
Suddenly, the warp drive kicked in. The blackness of space was sucked into an awesome black velvet tunnel streaked with veins of white, gold, blue, purple and red.
I must have looked incredibly awestruck because I heard someone laugh behind me. I turned, my mouth still slightly agape, and found Jarrod looking at me.
"What are you doing here?" I demanded and immediately bit my lip. That really was not the way to address a superior officer. Fortunately, she just laughed again.
"Oh, Terran. You'll never change. It's 'what are you doing here, sir!'" she teased.
It melted my tension and I felt my shoulders physically drop.
"I am sorry, sir. It's just all a bit ..."
"Yes, well get used to it. This is a starship and that," she pointed to the viewscreen, "is warp travel. And I'm your new XO, by the way."
"Oh, congratulations," I exclaimed with true delight in my voice.
"Thank you, cadet," and then she threw a poorly hidden scowl at T'Roc giving me the distinct impression she had been press-ganged into the role. As for T'Roc, she almost ignored Jarrod, but smirked smugly to herself as she checked over her instruments.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I shall be in my Ready Room. Cadet Terran, would you join me."
T'Roc got up and swiftly left. I scurried along behind her, sorely conscious that I looked like a little puppy dancing at her heels. How do officers get that air of ease and confidence about them? Does it come with time or do you have to practise it, I wondered.
In the ready room, T'Roc settled herself into her chair, leaning back leisurely. I sat in front of her and waited.
"As you might have gathered, things have not gone quite according to plan," and she waited for me to respond.
"Really?" I enquired innocently enough, but my eyes told her I wasn't going to be drawn into an unguarded comment. I think my Starfleet training is starting to kick in.
"Yes," she drew the word out and tented her fingers over her mouth.
"But fortunately, I have been able to persuade Commander Jarrod to step up as my First Officer. I need people I can rely on around me and Katy—Commander Jarrod, that is—is not only highly competent but she has earned the promotion five times over."
I really, really wanted to say that she didn't look very keen about it, but it would have been highly inappropriate to comment.
"As for my yeoman, she discovered yesterday that her bout of flu is, in fact, a bout of pregnancy. Under the circumstances, I have had her reassigned to a Starbase, which means I have no yeoman.
"Now, I'm good at many things but organising my diary and getting reports in on time are not on that list, so I need to impose upon you, Jenny. I want you to be my yeoman. It will fill your otherwise sparse list of responsibilities, back up your training and give you an excellent insight into the administerial workings of a starship. I take it you are agreeable."
I tried not to grin, but I couldn't help it. T'Roc wasn't asking. She was assigning me new duties whether I liked it or not and was merely following protocol by running it by me. As it was, I didn't mind. I had already wondered what duties a Cultural Advisor would be undertaking when not culturally advising and (because I hadn't checked my roster) had no idea what else I would be assigned to. Yeomanry sounded a good way to fill the void. It was certainly better than crawling through Jeffries tubes, playing gofer to the engineering staff or refitting the carpets.
"I'd be delighted," I beamed.
"Good!" she snapped and immediately leapt forward, grabbed a couple of datapads and threw them at me.
"I need you to check crew rosters, PDP training schedules and organise a meeting for me with my new Chiefs of Staff and another between the PDP cadets, their mentors and the Training Officer. I also need you to make sure I don't miss a reporting deadline—all of which are detailed on those somewhere—and check crew and equipment manifests.
"I have a small contingent of marines on board that were posted to me last minute. I want to see their personnel files. I'd also like an analysis of my crew by species and details of any foibles those species may have ..."
Her list continued on and on and on. Fortunately, I had the foresight to fire up a datapad and make some notes.
"Any questions?" she finally asked.
"Um, no—yes. Do I have enough clearance to access this information and where's the best place to do it?"
"You should have clearance, but any problems, let me or Commander Jarrod know, and you have an office on B-Deck. You'll find it on the schematics, which I recommend you study. Personally, I always make it a priority to know my vessel and my crew inside out. I suggest you do the same."
She was very cold and factual as we discussed things. Very unlike the T'Roc I had met on the Drakonia, but it didn't surprise me.
On the Drakonia, she was a visiting dignitary relaxing with old friends. Here, she was the captain of her vessel and she had to get things in order quickly. As she had pointed out, she has a young, inexperienced crew. They would take a lot of guiding and encouragement. They ... we ... needed to appreciate when we could be jocular and when there was business to complete, like now.
Our meeting concluded, I was dismissed and made my way down to B-Deck. T'Roc was right though. I do need to familiarise myself with the ship. I had to study each door to find the one marked 'Yeoman's Office'.
Inside was quite a surprise. It's not a big room by any means, but bigger than I had anticipated. There was a desk with a chair and seating enough for three visitors. Storage on one wall provided ample space for datapads and reference materials while on the other wall, a watercolour of the Earhart hung to which I was instantly drawn. The colours were beautiful and the detail exquisite. It was signed Eleanor Barnham. Who was Eleanor Barnham, I wondered.
I sat at my desk—quite a lovely piece of furniture with a smoky-blue glass top and brushed aluminium legs—and activated the computer.
"Computer, who is Eleanor Barnham?" I enquired.
"Ensign Eleanor Barnham was the Captain's yeoman aboard the USS Earhart from 2365 to the ship's disappearance in 2368. Her whereabouts is unknown."
Suddenly, I felt very humbled. I was sitting in a dead woman's chair—at least it was likely she was dead. My eyes rose to the picture again. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of removing it, but it was short lived. That picture had a right to be there. It was only fitting that it should stay. This time, a tear did escape my eye, but just the one. I had work to do.